Milton Keynes-based pallet distribution and warehousing firm W H Barley (Transport and Storage) has entered administration.

The business operated a mixed fleet, ranging from small vans to 44-tonne curtainsiders, and a 100,000sq ft purpose-built commercial storage / warehouse facility on a five-acre site in Wolverton.

The family-run company was founded by chairman Peter Barber in 1970. He was later instrumental in it becoming an active member of both Palletline and the Transport Association.

In a post on LinkedIn earlier today (22 December), chief executive Emma Barber blamed “financial challenges” for the firm’s collapse and said “increasing cost pressures are reaching breaking point for many hauliers”.

She added that fellow RHA members had told her the lead-up to Christmas – traditionally a bumper period for operators moving retail goods – is “the worst since 2008”.

“It is with great sadness that we must share the difficult news that W H Barley Transport & Storage has unfortunately gone into administration,” her message read.

“This decision was made after exhausting all available options to sustain the business, and it comes with heavy hearts as we acknowledge the impact on our valued employees, clients, and suppliers.

“The decision to take this step has not been made lightly, and it follows extensive efforts to explore alternative solutions for our financial challenges. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have reached a point where administration is deemed necessary. Emma and Peter Barber have tried everything in their power to fund the business moving forward.

“Freight volumes are down by 10-15 percent with fewer goods being moved around as the cost-of-living bites. In short, costs are still rising faster than inflation, profits are meagre, and hauliers are saying that customers are not wanting to pay reasonable prices.

“The worst-case scenario has come true for many. Business failures are on the rise. A recent report concluded that a record number of hauliers (463) have gone bust this year – more than twice as many as last year.

“To our dedicated employees, we regret to inform you that, due to the company’s closure, there are no longer job opportunities available. We understand the challenges this poses for you, and we want to express our sincere gratitude for your hard work and commitment during your time with our family business W H Barley Transport & Storage.

“To our esteemed clients and suppliers, we deeply regret any inconvenience caused by the company’s closure. We appreciate the trust and partnership you extended to us over the years.

“This is an incredibly challenging time for everyone involved and we appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we navigate through this process,” she continued. ”We sincerely thank each and every one of you for being a part of the W H Barley community. We extend our heartfelt best wishes to all during these difficult times.”

Barber’s comments refer to an MT report last month revealing that the number of haulage businesses entering insolvency jumped from 225 in 2020/21, to 363 in 2021/22 and then to 463 in the most recent 12-month period. This represents a rise of 173% in just two years (year ending 30 September).

Obtained by Price Bailey under the Freedom of Information Act, the data also revealed that 33% of businesses in the sector are deemed a maximum credit risk, up from 22% 12 months ago. Businesses in the maximum risk category are considered at imminent risk of collapse and will find it almost impossible to access extra funding unless directors provide personal guarantees.

Nobody from W H Barley was available when MT rang for further comment.